Top 10 Tips for Preparing a Job Schedule

Getting your employee shift scheduling right may result in having happy employees, efficiency, and saving millions in the process. But for most companies, even mega-corporations, scheduling can create stress and headaches as managers struggle between getting the best employees to take on the most relevant shifts.

Big corporations, despite all their experience, manpower, and budget, can get it wrong too. In 2017, Ryanair had to cancel 20,000 flights because it botched its rosters, resulting in Europe’s largest airline by passenger numbers unable to allocate pilots to planes while getting reprimands from regulators and a cascade of complaints from passengers. Here’s how not to do a Ryanair-type mistake that could lose you money, your reputation, and anger employees. These 10 tips can make all the difference:


1. Keep It Simple

Preparing a job schedule can be complicated but the whole point of it is allowing your employees and vendors to have easy access in a quick, easy, and clear manner. Make sure you adopt the right software that everyone can access and that is simple to use.

The key is to give employees some consistency so that they can plan their personal lives around the shifts that they are working. The schedule should also allow for the ability to swap and change the shifts in advance. Make sure the system can track such changes so you are on top of who does what and how often. If there’s scheduling abuse – you need to know about it!


2. Involve Your Employees

Besides allowing staff to request and swap shifts, involve them and ask them what they feel are the most important things for them to see in their schedule. For example, do they prefer seeing a weekly schedule, daily, or monthly, etc.

Find out what times would be convenient for them. A mother of two children would, for instance, find it more ideal to work during the day when the children are at school, while another person who’s a single student may be more flexible or would prefer doing night shifts.

3. Make It Mobile

It’s not just teenagers who are constantly on their phones and prefer to communicate using their mobile phones. The workforce of 2019 is on mobile too and there are so many benefits to using apps to communicate with your staff. By now, most people have cell phones and some companies even equip staff with them so it would be really easy to give everyone access to the schedule so that they know what’s going on at all times. By implementing a time clock app on an employees’ device, you make it easier for them to access their schedule whenever they want.

And many of these mobile solutions do a lot more than just allow employees to clock in and clock out. Most allow employees to request time off or vacation straight from the app, can communicate with the manager through an in-app chat, can view past or current timesheets, and the payroll process can be integrated into the time clock app. Now those sound like great benefits to both managers and employees alike.



4. Do It In Advance

An emergency can come up for you or for your staff that could blow the best thought out schedule right out of the water. It’s important to keep your employees in the loop and to keep a list of people who would be available to jump in at the last moment or that would be happy to swap shifts around.

To be fair to all employees, make sure you schedule shifts, when preparing a job schedule, in advance (say at least a month or so) so that they know when they need to work and can make alternative arrangements if they need to. Giving your staff only a couple of days’ notice about shifts could make for some very unhappy and disgruntled staff. This also allows your staff to have a healthy work-life balance so they can show up for their shift refreshed and ready to provide the best customer service possible – you don’t want drained, zombies reporting for duty.

5. Avoid Clopens

If you want to make yourself unpopular, make your staff work clopens and do it regularly. Clopen has been created from the words ‘close’ and ‘open’ and effectively means that your employee must do the last shift of the day and then do the first shift when the doors of your establishment open. Your staff member could be working long hours or even a double shift with hardly a break or sleep in between.

Sometimes clopens are unavoidable, particularly if you are short staffed – hospitals often have this type of scheduling problem. But if you’re not in an industry where people with the right skills are rare then it just boils down to bad management and poor scheduling.

To avoid clopens, managers have to communicate, particularly if more than one is responsible for drawing up the roster, and the right software has to be in place that can alert schedulers to conflicts and back to back shifts.

6. Keep Your Eye On Overtime

Overtime could lead to fatigue, stress and can even affect an employee’s health. In July 2018, a report revealed that researchers in Canada found that women who worked overtime increased their risk of diabetes. There are also studies that show that overtime increases the risk of heart disease and heart attacks.

It is not illegal for companies to allow employees to work overtime but in some countries the laws state that employees must be paid time and a half (their regular hourly wage plus 50%). So if it’s not your intention to make someone work overtime and there’s a glitch in your scheduling system, you are losing money for your company while causing unnecessary stress and strain to your employee.

If you’re using manual time sheets, it will be harder to find the manpower and time it takes to comb through the record to identify mistakes or abuses. Timekeeping software that generate reports will help you to identify where overtime is occurring and rectify the situation.

 7. Remember Vacations & Sick Days

If you offer staff holiday leave and sick days, you should have a company policy in place as well as an efficient way in which to track the leave. This will help to ensure that there is fairness and that, for example, employees with the same skillset don’t take leave at the same time, leaving the company and customers vulnerable to mistakes.

While using a spreadsheet is an inexpensive way to monitor such leave, it’s less laborious and time consuming to purchase a time off tracking program that can keep an accurate schedule. Make sure you purchase one that can easily put together a report if it’s needed for managers or those working in the human resources department.


8. Track Time and Scheduling In One Place

There are many types of scheduling software that you can buy. Some offer all-in-one services while others may excel at one particular type of tracking or scheduling for one particular industry. In most cases it’s more efficient to get scheduling software that can do it all and has the functionality to enable everyone who needs it access to the roster.

When you have time tracking and job scheduling rolled into one, you are automating two processes for the price of one. This means you have more time on your hands to focus on the big picture and your employees don’t have to worry about errors or mistakes when they get their paycheck or they can review their upcoming schedule.


9. The Right Team For The Job

Every team needs the right employees for the job so make sure you have the right staff in place to perform the job. It’s no good, for example, to have the best person for cashing up starting the shift when they are in fact better suited to end the shift.

If you have multiple managers responsible for putting together the roster or if you’ve been putting the schedule together manually, mistakes, like giving the busiest shifts to the most junior employee in your workforce, could occur regularly and result in your company losing money and its reputation too. Avoid this by taking the time to ensure you have the most qualified and competent staff available at the most crucial and busiest times.


10. Always Have A Backup

You never know when an employee could drop out of a shift at the last minute. There could be a family emergency to attend or an illness that could put someone off work. Back up staff are essential, so make sure that your schedule offers you the ability to create an on-call roster to fill empty shifts as needed. Schedules, including ones for on-call staff, that have been created well in advance and fairly could enable the company and employees to work cohesively with minimal stress and create a happy working environment for all. That’s job scheduling 101 when preparing a job schedule.

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